While the coronavirus spreads, stock markets crash, and we fear for our health, peregrine falcons are fighting for territory in the run-up to egg laying. There are more adult peregrines than nest sites and the nesting window is closing soon. Adults without a territory are pressuring any resident that shows the smallest sign of weakness.
At the Cathedral of Learning, the female Morela has a solid claim but her mate Terzo is vulnerable. An unbanded male peregrine with bright orange legs, cere, and eye rings has been challenging Terzo since 25 February 2020. The contest abated for five days, 4-9 March, but resumed on the 10th. For two days, 10-11 March, no male appeared on camera while Morela waited alone for hours. The males were busy with other concerns.
Yesterday, 12 March 2020, both males visited the nest. Terzo’s visits were extremely brief at the beginning and end of the day. The unbanded male visited three times and stayed longer. Here’s the play-by-play in snapshots and video from 12 March 2020. All photos are from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh.
8:52a and 9:02a: Terzo is briefly on camera twice with Morela. Less than a minute, then 30 seconds. He appears distracted.
11:36-11:39a: New male bows with Morela for three minutes. See photo at top and video below. Notice his bright orange legs, cere and eye ring. He and Morela approach closely, then he looks for Terzo. The contest continues.
1p – 2p: Morela visits the nest three times, calling and calling. Perhaps she sees one or both of them.
Yesterday was another quiet day at the Cathedral of Learning falconcam. Morela and Terzo courted for a few minutes at 8:18am and Morela lounged for two hours. Otherwise the nest was empty while the pair pursued other activities. Terzo is still in charge.
Quiet is good. The unbanded male peregrine that appeared four times between 27 February 3:44pm and 3 March 3:29pm has not been seen since. To be sure of that statement I reviewed every image (again) and learned that Terzo was present more often than I thought. I had misidentified him!
On the hotly contested day, 3 March, I saw Terzo’s silver band at 12:33pm after he jumped up from the gully but I wouldn’t believe it. Surely, Terzo would not be in the gully so I convinced myself it had to be the new guy. Wrong! Here are two photos — 3 March and 7 March — showing Terzo and his silver band. (3 March 12:33pm is just after he jumped up from the gully.)
I then found two snapshots of Terzo — a minute later on each day — showing his Black/Red band as he left the nest.
When Morela and Terzo are away from the nest, don’t worry that something’s wrong.
Yesterday morning Pitt employee Vanessa Guenther heard the peregrines outside her window and captured two videos that reveal what the peregrines were doing on the other side of the building.
Before dawn Terzo delivered breakfast to Morela. She began to pluck and eat it at the “dining ledge” and then…
6:40am: Morela clutched her breakfast and called to Terzo. He flew in and mated with her twice, then flew away. (video by Vanessa Guenther)
6:44am: Terzo arrived at the nest and called to Morela to join him. She brought her breakfast with her and they bowed for nine minutes.
6:56am: Morela left the nest, still carrying her breakfast. In the photo below she’s getting a better grip on it.
6:57am: Less than a minute later she was back at the “dining ledge” and the pair mated again (video by Vanessa Guenther).
Obviously Morela and Terzo have been busy elsewhere. Eggs coming soon!
(photos from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ of Pittsburgh; videos by Vanessa Guenther)
p.s. Around 7:09am the pair came back to the nest for a short time, Morela still carrying her breakfast. She seems to have become confused about her role and almost tried to feed Terzo as if he was a nestling. He took the prey and presented it back to her. Finally she took it away and ate it. It was an American robin.
Yesterday (5 March 2020) Lori Maggio saw lots of peregrine interaction at the USX Tower(*) at 11:45am. She wrote:
Dori flew up Grant toward USX, circled around it and landed about 50 floors up on the corner that overlooks Grant. Meanwhile, the Mister was also flying up Grant but landed on the Union Trust building calling to Dori. She was still circling USX so he quickly flew off toward her, circled several times until he reached her level, and they mated!
“This is the second time I’ve seen him/them land on the Union Trust building on the Grant Street side. He brought her prey there the last time.”
— observations from Lori Maggio, 5 March 2020
The peregrines are also active at their Third Avenue nest site. Lori photographed one of them on the nest ledge at 8am.
Last week Lori confirmed that the female is still Dori with this photograph of her bands. Though unreadable they’re a unique color combination: Black/green on left and Purple on right. This bird uses Dori’s favorite perches, another sign that it’s Dori.
Thanks to Lori Maggio for following Downtown Pittsburgh’s peregrines. We always need more observers. You can help by checking the Third Avenue area.
Keep looking up. There’s peregrine excitement in the air!
(photos by Lori Maggio)
(*) USX Tower is the city’s tallest building. It has a “UPMC” sign at the top.
UPDATE, 6 March 2020, 6:44a: This morning at 6:44a Terzo brought breakfast to Morela which she carried to the nest. They bowed for nine minutes. In the photo you can see his bands and the prey in her talons.
Terzo ruled at the Cathedral of Learning all day yesterday, 4 March 2020. He bowed with Morela on camera several times. The unbanded male peregrine never appeared.
6:56-7:00a: Just after dawn, Terzo called to Morela to bow at the nest. (Her face is at bottom right.)
2:05-2:11p: Terzo visited again, calling to Morela. Here’s a closeup showing his bands. The pair is bowing in the photo at top.
2:11-2:40p: When Terzo left the nest he didn’t leave the building. I arrived at Schenley Plaza around 2:30p and saw him perched on a gargoyle on 32 South while Morela was perched at the nest. At 2:40p Terzo flew away to make his “great circle” route(*), soaring and patrolling the edge of his domain.
At 2:43p Morela saw a red-tailed hawk flying over Phipps Conservatory from her perch at the front of the nest. She flew fast, wings pumping, and attacked the hawk. The red-tail had to flip upside down to defend itself. Morela chased him away.
5:39-5:44p: At dusk Terzo called to Morela; they bowed at the end of the day.
It’s too soon to tell if the contest is over between Terzo and the unbanded male peregrine but yesterday was a positive sign.
(*) NOTE: The “great circle” is a patrolling trip that peregrines make from the Cathedral of Learning. The peregrine departs in one direction, soaring slowly, and starts to make a circle some distance away. The bird is soon out of sight. If we watch long enough, we see the peregrine return from another direction. We assume he’s made a circle.
Yesterday there were many turnovers and surprises in the contest between Terzo and the unbanded male peregrine vying for the Cathedral of Learning nest. By the end of Tuesday there was still no clear winner. Here’s the play-by-play in snapshots on 3 March 2020. All photos are from the National Aviary falconcam at Univ. of Pittsburgh.
7:08-7:19a: Terzo brings food for Morela which she holds as they bow at the nest.
7:52-9:49a: Morela waits in the rain. (The blob is a raindrop on the camera cover.)
11:50-11:53a: New male briefly visits the nest and bows with Morela who raises her tail high.
12:29-12:34p: Surprise! Terzo in the gully, jumps up to bow with Morela.
2:38-2:43p: Morela at the nest alone.
3:11-3:29p: New male bows with Morela, then scans the sky for Terzo (photo at top). Terzo is still out there, as he proves later in the day!
5:33-5:35p: Terzo calls to Morela and they bow at the nest. After he leaves she remains at the nest.
Lingering until 6:18p: As the day ends Morela leaves to roost elsewhere on the building.
The contest between Terzo and an unbanded male will continue until someone wins.
Yesterday morning I was surprised to learn that a new male peregrine was at the Cathedral of Learning nest last Thursday, 27 February. After much research I’ve discovered that …
Terzo and an unbanded peregrine have been vying for the Cathedral of Learning nest for at least a week. The contest is ongoing and there is no clear winner yet. Sometimes Terzo is at the nest, sometimes it’s the new guy. Here’s what has happened so far:
24 February, 3:40p: Terzo rules. As proof, he and Morela bow at the nest for about five minutes.
25 and 26 February: For two days there is almost no activity at the nest, indicating that the peregrines are busy with other concerns. Morela makes four short visits alone. During her last visit on 26 February at 11:47am, she bows to a peregrine off camera who never appears.
27 February, 3:44p: New unbanded male peregrine at the nest. He and Morela bow for three minutes.
Friday 28 February 2020 is a back and forth day. Terzo rules at dawn and dusk. The new male bows with Morela at 1:07pm. Three photos below.
28 February, 7:00a: Terzo bows briefly with Morela before dawn.
28 February, 1:07p: New male courts Morela for seven minutes. See the video here.
28 February, 5:42p: Terzo is back at dusk.
29 February: Terzo is still in charge. He bows with Morela for two minutes at 7:33a.
1 March 2020: Inconclusive! The peregrines spend so much time away from the nest that they don’t notice when two ravens soar over the Cathedral of Learning and swoop near the nest at 11:07a. Ravens are very unusual on campus and would have been chased away by the peregrines … if they’d been at home.
In the afternoon, Morela spends less than half an hour at the nest. Twice she bows to a peregrine off camera.
Today, 2 March 2020, 7:35a: Terzo rules. Morela visited the nest twice before dawn and bowed to an unseen peregrine. Then Terzo visited the nest alone at 7:35a.
BREAKING NEWS! The male peregrine in this video is unbanded. That means he is not Terzo! Stay tuned for more news tomorrow. Meanwhile, a big thank you goes to “Small Town James” who pointed this out in the YouTube video described below.
Courtship between Morela and her mate (not Terzo!) is intensifying as egg laying approaches this month.
On Friday 28 February 2020 the peregrines bowed, swayed, and “ee-chupped” at the Cathedral of Learning nest for seven minutes. Sometimes they nearly touched beaks.
This seven minute video is long but it shows their entire “ledge display.” Notice how the male steps and sways side to side while Morela bows very low. This pair is bonding closely.
We’re all looking forward to eggs in mid March. Meanwhile we’ll be watching to learn more about the new male peregrine at Pitt.
There’s happy news at the Harmar bald eagle nest, observed by Gina Gilmore.
Gina was on hand on Wed 26 Feb 2020 at 1:57pm when she saw — and filmed — the female bald eagle behaving as if she had laid her first egg. The bird stood in the nest, often looked down between her feet, and remained standing as if she was waiting for an egg to dry. Then she settled down to begin incubation.
Click here or on the image above to see Gina’s video. When you play the video, click on the speaker icon at bottom right to turn on sound …
This egg is the 10th at the Harmar site since nesting was first confirmed in 2013/2014 and the 1st for 2020. A second egg is due today or tomorrow, 28 or 29 Feb, at Harmar.
Thank you, Gina Gilmore, for filming this happy event. Without an eaglecam on the nest, we rely on observers like Gina to note behavior that indicates an egg has been laid. See more of Gina’s photos on her Facebook page.